Saturday, May 31, 2014

Istanbul 2014 - Istiklal Caddesi & Taksim Square

Date: 7th April 2014

These were the 2 places that we last went to end our hectic schedules catching up with all places of attraction in our itinerary list. We took tram from Galata Tower to find first, the Istiklal Avenue and lastly to have some photos with the monument of the Republic seated at the centre of the Taksim Square. Anne had her dream come true when we had an opportunity to ride the historic red tram at Beyoglu station in front of the tunnel. 

A photo with a historic red tram on İstiklal Avenue

Istiklal Caddesi is Independence Avenue, one of the most famous avenues in Istanbul, Turkey, visited by nearly 3 million people in a single day over weekends. Located in the historic Beyoglu district, it contains an elegant pedestrian street, 1.4 kilometers long, which houses boutiques, music stores, bookstores, art galleries, cinemas, theatres, libraries, cafes, pubs, night clubs with live music, historical patisseries, chocolateries and restaurants.

The avenue is surrounded by late Ottoman era buildings, mostly from the 19th and early 20th centuries. It’s neighbourhood included Galata Tower and ultimately leads up to Taksim Square. Galatasaray Square is located at approximately the center of the avenue and is home to one of the finest educational institutions established in Turkey at the time of the Ottoman Empire.

Thinking of my children when passing this shop :(
In the historic Galata district towards the southern end of the avenue, we had an opportunity to see the world's 2nd oldest subway station (after London's Underground, built in 1863), generally known and referred to as simply Tune (The Tunnel) which entered service in 1875. 

A historic tram that were in used in the late 18th century

During the Ottoman period, the avenue was called Grand Avenue and was a popular spot for Ottoman intellectuals, also becoming a center for European foreigners and the local Italian and French Levantines who referred to it as Grande Rue de Pera, Paris of the East. With the declaration of the Republic on October 29, 1923, the avenue's name was changed to Independence for commemorating the triumph at the Turkish War of Independence.

The avenue briefly fell from grace due to series of riots, but, a massive restoration by the Municipality has brought the avenue its old charm and popularity. It once again became the center of fine arts and leisure in Istanbul, with real estate prices skyrocketing as a result. Numerous new art galleries, bookstores, cafes, pubs, restaurants, shops and hotels were opened. The venues around the avenue became the host of many international art festivals, such as the annual Istanbul Film Festival. A long Istiklal Avenue pedestrian shopping street, ends at Taksim square. 

The Monument of the Republic (1928) on Taksim Square, crafted by Italian sculptor Pietro Canonica
Taksim Square is a location of the Monument of the Republic which was crafted by Pietro Canonica and inaugurated in 1928. The monument commemorates the 5th anniversary of the foundation of the Republic of Turkey in 1923, following the Turkish War of Independence.

The Taksim square was originally the point where the main water lines from the north of Istanbul were collected and branched off to other parts of the city (hence the name.) This use for the area was established by Sultan Mahmud I. The square takes its name from the Ottoman era stone reservoir which is located in this area. Taksim is a main transportation hub and a popular destination for both tourists and the native population of Istanbul. 

Taksim is also a favourite location for public events such as parades, New Year celebrations, or other social gatherings. Ataturk Cultural Center, a multi-purpose cultural center and opera house, is also located at Taksim Square. Taksim Square is an important hub for public transport in Istanbul. The square has been an important venue for political protests during much of its existence. Groups from all sides of the political spectrum in Turkey, as well as many NGOs, try to demonstrate in this square in order to use its visibility for the benefit of their cause.

This entry is the last of what I wanted to share from historical and panoramic view of all places visited during our short stay of 4 days. The next will on the Train Rides which are my other favorite subject matter .

Friday, May 30, 2014

Istanbul 2014 - Galata Tower

Date of visit: 7th April 2014

A happy lady with her wish list visit place "Galata Tower"

The Galata Tower (in Turkish, Galata Kulesi) was once called by the Genoese (built by them in 1348) as Christea Turris in Latin, the Tower of Christ by the Genoese. It is a medieval stone tower in the Galata/Karakoy quarter of Istanbul, just to the north of the Golden Horn's junction with the Bosphorus. Galata Tower is one of the city's most striking landmarks, it is a high, cone-capped cylinder that dominates the skyline and offers a panoramic vista of Istanbul's historic peninsula and its environs.

The receiption/lift lobby area to take us staright up to the viewing deck

The 9 story tower is 66.90 meters tall (up to the tip of the ornament), was the city's tallest structure when it was built. The elevation at ground level is 35 meters above sea-level. The tower has an external diameter of 16.45 meters at the base, an 8.95 meters diameter inside, and walls that are 3.75 meters thick.

There is a restaurant and cafe on its upper floors which command a magnificent view of Istanbul and the Bosphorus. Also located on the upper floors is a night club which hosts a Turkish show. There are two operating elevators that carry visitors from the lower level to the upper levels. To mark our visit that day, we decided to have coffee and rice puddings at the cafe. It was a blessed day as we were able to use the facilities up offered up there to offer prayer and freshened up of the tower’s cleanest toilets.

A must try rice pudding

The tower was built n 1348 during an expansion of the Genoese colony in Constantinople. It was built to replace the old Tower of Galata, an original Byzantine tower named Megalos Pyrgos @ Great Tower, which controlled the northern end of the massive sea chain that closed the entrance to the Golden Horn. That tower was on a different site and was largely destroyed in 1203, during the 4th Crusade of 1202–1204.

Meal overlooking Istanbul city at Galata restaurant deck is a must do list

The upper section of the tower with the conical cap was slightly modified in several restorations during the Ottoman period when it was used as an observation tower for spotting fires.

According to the Seyahatname of Ottoman historian and traveller Evliya Çelebi, in circa 1630-1632, Hezarfen Ahmet Çelebi flew as an early intercontinental aviator using artificial wings for gliding from this tower over the Bosphorus to the slopes of Üsküdar on the Anatolian side, nearly six kilometres away. Evliyâ Çelebi also tells of Hezarfen's brother, Lagari Hasan Çelebi, performing the first flight with a rocket in a conical cage filled with gunpowder in 1633.

Starting from 1717 the Ottomans began to use the tower for spotting fires in the city. In 1794, during the reign of Sultan Selim III, the roof of the tower made of lead and wood, and the stairs were severely damaged by a fire. Another fire damaged the building in 1831, upon which a new restoration work took place.

During the final restoration in the 1960s, the wooden interior of the tower was replaced by a concrete structure and it was commercialized and opened to the public. From the top of the tower, the first French panorama painter Pierre Prevost drew in 1818 his "Panorama de Constantinople" which was later exhibited in Paris in 1825.

Decent place for us to pray at the washroom area
I like to conclude a few thing, that you must not rushed once you have arrived in Galata Tower. Do not rush by going down, rather after taking photos. Rather, spend more time appreciating what you have paid for (an entrance ticket up) by enjoying at least a cup of coffee and feel fortunate that the coffee that you had that day was on top of 1 of the oldest tower in the world.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Istanbul 2014 - Cruising on Bosphorus Straits

Date of cruise: 7th April 2014

In love with the cloudy sky

It was a rather cold day for cruise, but we were determined to withstand the weather and proceed with our plans. No turning back as there will be no return trip in future. But the walk to get on to the boat at the dock of Eminonu was very far. However, we really enjoy the cloudy weather that day walking along the old streets of Istanbul city taking photos during the walk, eases away our negative thoughts.

The dock at Eminonu and the boat that we rode that day #ignored wrong date on the photo
Ottoman's water front house

Cruising along the Bosphorus is a fantastic way to check out some of Istanbul’s attractions, like glorious monuments and mansions, all from the luxurious comfort of a boat. There are many different options for a Bosphorus Cruise depending on what you would like to see, how you would like to see it, and most importantly how much are you willing to pay. The cruise operators have many to offer, from small, private tours to busier ferries.

Zeyrek Mosque

Dolmabahce Mosque

The Bosphorus Strait is an iconic, separating the Asian and European sides of Istanbul and connecting the Sea of Marmara to the Black Sea.  It is the narrowest strait used for international navigation in the world, and an important trading route.

Lower deck of the boat was not as cold as upper deck

A complete view of Dolmabahce Palace

What we chose and paid that day was a 2 hour non-stop Bosphorus Cruise leaves the dock located in Eminonu, near the Galata Bridge for Euro15 per person. It was arranged by our hotel where the representative came to pick us up at Yazar Hotel to the meeting point infront of Hagia Sophia. The full cruise travels the length of the Bosphorus without any stops at any point but offering views on both sides of the city, European and Asian.

Beneath Sultan Fatih Mehmed's bridge

There are public cruises stopping in at numerous destinations where the passengers can get off at any stop, though most wait until the final port at the village of Anadolu Kavagi. The fare is very nominal and affordable, Turkish Lira (TL) 10. With some nearby beaches and the hilltop Yoros Castle, Anadolu Kavagi is a great place to spend the necessary three hours waiting for the return ferry.

Rumelian Castle/Fortress 1452

Another option is the modern and comfortable private cruise, which is operated by a collective of private boat owners. The cruise operates from Eminonu and drops its passengers at the Galata Bridge.

The Maiden's Tower once a customs post, was used as a set for the James Bond movie "From Russia With Love". 

Galata Bridge & Galata Tower seen from Eminonu on Bosphorus Straits

There is no commentary drinks or foods on either the private or traditional public ferries. Be warned that only limited outdoor seating are available. Vendors move around the boat often, selling tea, coffee, soft drinks, juices and small snacks at reasonable prices.

Memory of Greece recalled when seen those big cruise ship

Last photo for the day!

Private tours are also available, and touts will often approach tourists and offer these 3 hour tours for around 25-30TL per person.  They travel to Rumeli Fortress for lunch, before turning back towards Eminonu. Although these tours are more expensive and don’t travel as far as the other ferries, they are more exclusive, meaning fewer people on board (60-100) and decks to sunbathe on.  Some offer a historical commentary in English, but be a little bit cautious as the quality can vary hugely, so be sure to do a little research before hopping on board.  Boats leave only when they’re full. You may view the website "bosphorus cruise" for better options that are made available here, depending on your available time and money.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Istanbul 2014 - Grand Bazaar

Date of visit: 7th April 2014

7th April was our last day in Istanbul as our group will leave via midnight train to Bucharest. We tried to complete our tour in Istanbul by catching up those places duly planned in our itinerary. Grand Bazaar was supposed to be on the first day but due to incident of our missing luggage, we had to rescheduled it on the last day. A cruise along Marmara/Bosporus sea is a must, so arrangement has been made with the hotel for the cruise at 2.30pm, i.e. shortly after we finished with Grand Bazaar and check out. The next place was to Galata Tower and Taksim Square. I would like to enlighten myself with the history of Grand Bazaar, my most favorite subject.
Kapalicarsi gate to Grand Bazaar

The head of the Grand Bazaar Artisans Association claimed that the complex was in 2011 (on its 550th birthday), the most visited monument in the world. A restoration project starting in 2012 should renew its infrastructure, heating and lighting systems. Moreover, the caravanserai inside the Market will be renovated and later additions will be demolished. This project should finally solve the big problems of the market: for example, in the whole Bazaar there is no proper toilet facility. Moreover, the lacks of controls in the past years allowed many dealers to remove columns and skive walls in their shops to gain space: This, together with the substitution of lead (stolen in the last years) with concrete on the market's roof, has created a great hazard when the earthquake expected in Istanbul in the next years will occur.

The Grand Bazaar is opened each day except Sundays and bank holidays from 9 am until 7pm. On my second visit, I did not shop as much as I did when I first arrived here in 2004. I was wishing that hubby was with me during last trip as he would probably able to decide to bring back some of the beautiful Turkish lamps in the Bazaar that I yearn to have for the new house. 

The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, with 61 covered streets and over 3,000 shops which attract between 250,000 and 400,000 visitors daily. The Grand Bazaar is located inside the walled city of Istanbul, in Fatih district. It stretches roughly from west to east between the mosques of Beyazit and of Nuruosmaniye. The Bazaar can easily be reached from Sultanahmet and Sirkeci by trams at Beyazıt-Kapalıcarsi stop.

I brought back 1 of these

The grandeur lamps that I wish to be in my new house, sigh!

The core construction started during the winter of 1455/56, shortly after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople at the order of Fatih Sultan Mehmet. Sultan Mehmet II had an edifice erected devoted to the trading of textiles, named ‘Bedesten of Gems’. The word bedesten is adapted from the Persian word bezestan, derived from bez (cloth) carries a meaning, "bazaar of the cloth sellers". It is located on the slope of the third hill of Istanbul, between the ancient Forum of Constantine and of Theodosius. It was also near the Fatih Sultan Mehmed old palace (Eski Sarayi now Istanbul University), which was also in construction in those same years.

The construction of the Bedesten ended in the winter of 1460/61, and the building was endowed to the waqf of the Hagia Sofia Mosque. Analysis of the brickwork shows that most of the structure originates from the 2nd half of the 15th century, although a Byzantine relief representing a Comnenian eagle, still enclosed on the top of the East Gate of the Bedesten has been used by several scholars as proof that the edifice was a Byzantine structure.

Some years later, in 1545 under Sultan Suleyman I had another covered market built, the ‘Sandal Bedesten’ (the name comes from a kind of thread woven in Bursa, which had the colour of sandalwood), which lay north of the first. After the erection of the Sandal Bedesten the trade in textiles moved there, while the Bedesten of Gems was reserved for the trade in luxury goods. At the beginning the two buildings were isolated. According to the 16th-century French traveller Pierre Gilles, between them and the Mosque of Beyazid stood the ruins of churches and a large cistern. However, soon many sellers opened their shops between and around them, so that a whole quarter was born, devoted exclusively to commerce.

Plates was what I collected from all places that I travelled. It will be hang on my travel wall at home!

You must know how to bargain well. Bought a silk scarf from that guy :)

At the beginning of the 17th century the Grand Bazaar had already achieved its final shape. The enormous extent of the Ottoman Empire in 3 continents, and the total control of road communications between Asia and Europe, rendered the Bazaar and the surrounding caravanserais the hub of the Mediterranean trade. According to several European travellers, at that time, and until the first half of the 19th century, the market was unrivalled in Europe with regards to the abundance, variety and quality of the goods on sale. According to the European travellers at that time, the Grand Bazaar had a square plan, with two perpendicular main roads crossing in the middle and a third road running along the outer perimeter. In the Bazaar there were 67 roads (each bearing the name of the sellers of a particular good), several squares used for the daily prayers, 5 mosques, 7 fountains, 18 gates which were opened each day in the morning and closed in the evening (from these comes the modern name of the Market, "Closed Market" .

Around 1638 the Turkish traveller Evliya Çelebi has provided the most important historical description of the Bazaar and of its customs. The number of shops amounted to 3,000, plus 300 located in the surrounding the large caravanserais with 2 or 3 storeys round a porticoed inner courtyard, where goods could be stored and merchants could be lodged. In that period 1/10 of the shops of the city were concentrated in the market and around it. For all that, at that time the market was not yet covered.

How I appreciated the fact that I brought along my 2 sisters during my hectic journey. Love you 2 always!

Series of calamities, fires and earthquakes had hit and affected the Grand Bazaar, occurred in 1515 till the great fire in 1701. The fire of 1701 was particularly fierce, forcing in 1730-31 Grand Vizier Nevsehirli Damad Ibrahim Pasha to rebuild several parts of the complex. In this period, several parts of the market which lied between the 2 Bedesten were covered with vaults.

Sources mainly from Wikipedia.